I want the opportunity to move up in my organization, but leadership is telling everyone that they need to return to the office full time. How can I grow in my career without sacrificing the benefits that come with remote working?

Elaine Varelas advises on how you can advocate for a promotion at work, even when there is pressure to return to the office.

Q: People at my organization have been told that if they don’t come back to the office, they won’t be considered for a promotion. I don’t want to return to the office, but I do want to be considered for a promotion.

A: One of many old management styles was that face time counted for everything, and you didn’t leave the office until after your boss left and you arrived before they did. People were promoted based on the amount of face time at work, both in the office and at work-related commitments and events outside of the office. What you’re trying to accomplish is the best of both worlds. Flexibility in your schedule, eliminating a commute, and still having the opportunity for a promotion. Your organization has delivered a corporate message.  They didn’t say, "but if you outperform others or make amazing contributions, we’ll consider offering you a promotion”.  So you can believe them and go to an organization who will promote hybrid or remote workers, or you can look for an internal manager who thinks they have the authority to promote someone not in the office.  If you have a manager who is interested in seeing significant results, that’s the person that you want to talk to. Let them know that you are very interested in a promotion, but for numerous valid reasons that you will need to articulate, you wish to continue working remotely.
Share with them that you’d like to develop a list of target achievements that would put you in the position for a promotion. Share your accomplishments and the ways in which you have added value to the organization and your plans to continue to do so. Let them know that you are willing to compromise with working one day of the week in the office as opposed to none and see if offering some trade will appease the rule makers.. The company receives the outcomes that they need and you demonstrate the achievements that they are demanding.
You might consider doing some LinkedIn Learning courses, such as How to Be an Effective Remote Manager or Leading Remote Projects and Virtual Teams on your own time. You could then share with management your certificates of completion for the courses to help further your case that you are serious about being an effective and successful hybrid team leader/manager. During the earlier days of COVID Pandemic, there were numerous articles and blogs written about leading remote teams and it would be worthwhile to do research so that you are educated and have good talking points.
Every organization has rules. Most effective managers use those as guidelines. Recognize that there is often room for exceptions, particularly for high achievers. Don’t back away from the opportunity to achieve a promotion by not having that face-to-face conversation to see how much flexibility there might be in you advancing in your career within the organization. Be sure to advocate for yourself to ensure the visibility that you need to be able to be in the running for a promotion. Let them know that you working remotely won’t be a hindrance to being successful if you are promoted. And if not don’t waste your energy this way.  There are organizations who have made a complete adjustment to location by need and are looking for people fleeing organizations who haven’t expanded their thinking about what people need to do or where they need to be for their job.